Review: HEMA quinoa, couscous, and lentil salad

As I have written in my "HEMA press day S/S 2015: Other yummy food" post, I grabbed one of the new HEMA salads and a bottle of orange juice (which was by the way, not too sour, very nice) and headed to one of the many comfortable couches. Today, I can reveal to you that I took the HEMA quinoa salad. I have actually never tasted any of the three kinds of food (quinoa, couscous, and lentil) that the salads are based on, so I just intuitively took the one that looked the most interesting and delicious. The quinoa grains were brown and round. I was really curious to find out how they taste like.   

HEMA quinoa salad

HEMA quinoa salad

I thought the outer brown shells might be hard or chewy (like with popcorn), but I couldn't notice much difference between the outer shell and the inside. The quinoa was soft, but still slightly chewy. It didn't have much of a taste. It's actually really similar to small round-shaped rice, but the chewy kind. At first, I thought the small yellow pieces were fruit like mango for example, but they are soft, yellow bell pepper pieces. Nevertheless, it was very tasty. The arugula (in Dutch: rucola) tasted very nice in this salad. I normally don't like too much arugula in my food, but it had the exact right amount in it. I didn't taste the sharpness of arugula that well, as the flavor got mixed through the salad. The vinaigrette dressing was also great. However, the white cheese blocks had a slight goat cheese? flavor.

As I was pleasantly surprised by the HEMA quinoa salad, I really had to try the other two too. All for the sake of the blog. ^_^

HEMA couscous salad

This is the only salad that didn't have a salad dressing cup, while other two do have one in it. But I didn't have to worry, as there is already a nice sweet sauce or dressing in the couscous, very tasty! The first thing I noticed is that the white cheese blocks had a more pleasant taste than the ones in the previous salads. They were very delicious. I like that the chicken peas are slightly firm and with a slight bite. The carrot and red bell pepper pieces gave the coucous some flavor. To me, the couscous taste a bit like firm, cooked beans. Very similar to the small yellow beans (mung beans) in the Chinese zong zi (粽子) that my mother makes (she makes them a bit chewy, instead of very soft and mushy). There are also some lentil in the salad and I didn't realize what they were until I tasted the third salad (I thought they were pepper! ^_^).

HEMA couscous salad

 HEMA lentil salad

HEMA lentil salad

In this salad, there are soft, goat cheese bits, but they are very soft and creamy (melted immediately in the mouth). This one has a very strong goat cheese flavor, so be warned if you dislike the taste. Most of the cheese melted while I mixed the salad up, so this picture is very important, as it looks like it doesn't contain any cheese in the next picture. 

HEMA lentil salad mixed up

At first, I was very puzzled as I couldn't find anything that could be lentil and almost wanted to look up on Google what lentil is. Totally on the bottom, I discovered a thin layer of lentil (small, brown beans). It think it has a bit too little lentil, to be called a lentil salad as other ingredients such as green peas and chicken peas are bigger, more visible, and more flavorful. But the name does have more appeal than green peas salad or chicken peas salad.

This salad felt the most like a salad. There were lots of green peas, cucumber blocks, and lettuce, while the previous two salads tasted more like cold, Chinese fried rice (in a good way). The green peas were luckily not mushy and too soft. The outer peel popped when I bit in them and the center is soft, exactly how I like it. The cucumber blocks were nice and crunchy and the chicken peas were as great as in the previous salad. The salad dressing seems to be a simple oil-vinegar dressing, but the melted cheese made it turn into a creamier sauce.

What do I think?

I have never felt so enthusiastic about salads (except for the amazing mozzarella from a salad that I ate in Italy). For me, it is a tie between the HEMA quinoa salad (great chewy quinoa and dressing, but the flavor of the cheese is not totally to my liking, but not to the extent that I dislike it) and the HEMA coucous salad (great flavors and the best cheese). The HEMA lentil salad has a bit too much goat cheese flavor to me, but if you like that particular flavor, you might love this one. Without the goat cheese, it is a simple salad with subtle flavors. That is still great if you have a lack of appetite due to the warm weather.

The HEMA salads have an interesting, black, foldable, plastic fork inside, but it doesn't snap tight that well, so I often had to hold the fork in the middle, where the fold is. So, it would be nice it they could improve that.

Even though the salad bowl is a bit on the small side, it is relatively filling. It would be great as a light, refreshing lunch during the warmer days. The price is also really reasonable. I haven't seen them in the supermarket section of the large HEMA store in Rotterdam city center, but they should be released already, so you could look for them in the HEMA food-to-go stores such as in train stations.

Extra information:

HEMA quinoa salad (180 gr), coucous salad (165 gr), and lentil salad (180 gr)
Price: €2.50
Freshly made every day
Only natural flavorings and no colors added.

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